behind the iron curtain

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

while i was an economics major and spent most of my time studying japanese and chinese languages, i really should have been a history and poli-sci double major.  my first year of college (at umich – go blue!), i was fortunate enough to take US history: 1933 – present, instructed by the legendary sidney fine.  what made the course so special was that professor fine had lived through the entire period.  he could relate personal stories about the hardships of the recession, being a ww2 japanese language officer in the navy, etc..  not sure if this is folklore or not, but when he hit the age for mandatory retirement (60 something), his students petitioned to get the age limit changed.  and each year repeated the petition so he could keep on teaching. professor fine finally retired in 2001 at the age of 80, and after teaching for 53 years!  he passed away 2 years ago.

i studied a little bit of cold war history in high school.  i barely remember watching the berlin wall collapse on tv.  but i clearly remember falling in love with ww2 and cold war history in professor fine’s class. and at the same time, i took a poli-sci course called lessons of history (or so i thought…this sounds like the course i took, but it has a different name) which introduced me to appeasement, containment, and all kinds of successful and unsuccessful political theory covering the almost 50 years since the end of ww2.

also, one of my first real girlfriends in college was originally from czeckoslovakia.  she told me how her parents, both scientists (or at least something technical), smuggled her and her brother out of the country when she was really young…maybe 4 or 5.  and when her parents told her they weren’t going back, she cried and said something along the lines of ‘i’ll never leave the motherland.’

so here i am, behind the iron curtain.  first stop was budapest.  second stop is prague.  next stop is berlin.  i’m working in a starbucks in wenceslas square, where hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets during the country’s velvet revolution.  communism in czeckoslovakia effectively fell apart right here (ok, that’s going a bit too far, but you get the point).  this is freakin’ awesome.  and yes, i understand how geeky my love of history sounds, but i don’t care. sidney fine – ok, winston churchill – taught me to heed the lessons of history…or we’re doomed to repeat it.

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prague night out

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

fun night out.  drinking.  dancing.  more drinking.  more dancing.  and then stepped out to see daylight at about 5am.

my day started at about 6am in budapest.  i returned to my hotel in prague at about 6am.

i went to the bombay bar on the recommendation of a kuwaiti guy i met at dinner.  i got to the bar around 10:30pm.  nice place for the 20-30 somethings with bartenders who do a couple tricks (catching ice cubes, flipping bottles, etc.).  small dance floor.  room for about 120 people, so kinda cozy.  when i got there, 2 girls started dancing.  soon after, another 3.  as opposed to being one of the idiotic guys standing around with his hands in his pockets, i started dancing with one of the groups.  and really didn’t stop for a couple hours.  strange to think that i was the only guy out there for a long time…i guess i should thank the shy czechs.  although after they ingested enough liquid courage, they joined in.  and were extremely pushy.  and seemed to have no problems dancing with each other.  seeing 3 straight guys dancing together in the US just doesn’t happen.

lots of vodka tonics throughout the night, which i thought were cheap, but i now realized really weren’t (that damn exchange rate again!).

just like anywhere else i’ve gone dancing in the world, some women will dance with you and others think they’re way too good for you.  although the ‘way too good for you type’ last night was really snotty.  i swear that everywhere else in the world, if a woman doesn’t want to dance with you, she’ll just ‘box’ you out somehow.  she might also give you that holier than thou look, but last night, i got the ‘look from hell’ a couple times which communicated something close to “get the fuck away from me.  now.  i’m soooo much cooler than you.  you’re an annoying little gnat who can’t comprehend a goddess like me.”  or something close to that.  still trying to figure out if there was some sort of protocol that i screwed up considering the chilly downright freezing reaction.

but those girls weren’t the only ones there. i danced with a really cute czech girl who unfortunately was with lots of her colleagues, so she had to act all professional.  and then somehow i gravitated to 3 american girls – had no idea they were american for a while.  odd that in a room full of at least 50 women, i found the americans.  and 3 other american guys gravitated towards them as well.  had fun dancing until around 2am.   then we changed locations and went to the largest club in western europe, karlovy lazny (check out the history), right near the charles bridge.  the club has 5 levels, each with a different musical genre – 80s, hip hop, techno, etc.  karlovy is a bit run down and definitely feels a bit cold war-ish or communist, but that’s part of the allure.

yada yada yada…fun night out.

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munich – i heart huhner schnitzel

June 23, 2011 Leave a comment

succulent & juicy fried chicken cutlet sandwich with mustard.  i had 3 of them in 2 days!


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bologna – festival for everyone

June 23, 2011 Leave a comment

the festival for everyone!  the name says it all.  complete randomness.  people dancing.  people singing.  people beating the drums.  floats.  faces painted every color imaginable.  and more.

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international vagabonding almost over

June 22, 2011 Leave a comment

i’ve realized that i’m in my home stretch.  (and yes, i’ll make sure to do lots of blogging before it’s all over, so make sure to tune in – i have sooo many cool pics and stories to tell!)

it’s really strange to think that i’ve already been in europe for 2 months.  england –> france –> spain –> france –> italy –> germany –> hungary.  i’m on the train from munich to budapest right now (and hoping my wireless hotspot holds out for a bit!).  with all the running around from city to city and site to site, it doesn’t really feel like it’s been 2 months.   keeping busy makes the time fly.

these next two weeks should be a blast.  i’m doing the budapest/prague/berlin triumverate because of my interest obsession with cold war history.  sadly, i’ve forgotten so much of what happened, so hoping to brush up on the events as i go and then visit as many ww2 and cold war historical sites as possible.  wish i had a little more time to do that in munich as well…would have been cool to find out more about hitler’s munich.

i leave berlin on july 1 and need to be in gothenburg, sweeden in the afternoon on the 4th.  which means that i get to explore denmark and sweeden just a bit (whet my appetite for my next trip!).  and the kicker is that as opposed to the original plan of flying back to the US through dublin, now i’m flying back through reykjavik, iceland.  doesn’t that just sound cool?  ICELAND!  don’t know anything about the country besides the cold war significance.  heading into the unknown…again!

then i’m back in the US.  in the bay area for A’s wedding.  back to reality.  i’ve started to think about what’s next.  have some business ideas.  have some job offers.  have some unique opportunities.  don’t know what i’ll do.  not thinking about it seriously until i step back on US soil.


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munich – back to the land of starbucks

June 22, 2011 Leave a comment

i didn’t know how much i missed it until i had it again. mocha frappucino with sojamilch.

starbucks, free wifi, and skype…oh, and REM playing in the starbucks.  i have a big smile on my face!






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June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

i’ve been plagued by slow internet speeds for the last couple weeks + i’ve been running all around italy, so i have a lot of posts to write. unfortunately, i’m sitting in a sbux in munich with a .04mpbs upload speed so no pics or videos today.


it’s easy to say that i had a so-so time in florence. it’s also easy to say that i had a great time in florence. it depended on the day, the weather, the condition of the apartment, and more.

so here’s the run down. florence is beautiful and has tons to offer. hit up the ufizzi, duomo, and academia. my runs up to piazelle michaelangelo and my relaxing afternoon in the bardini garden (followed by a great sandwich at —-) were great. the view from the top of the duomo was amazing, even in the pouring rain. the food, based on my sister’s recommendations, was delicious. the gelato – at least once a day! – was a perfect break from museum hopping or city wandering. i loved seeing the david. my favorite museum stop was the picasso, miro, dali: angry young men exhibit at the palazzo strazzi

. best part was seeing my sister in her element. and i had a travel mate with me, which worked out well. after being by myself for so long, it was nice to have w around, although it was also nice to get away from each other for a couple hours ever now and then! 🙂

so lots of good.

as for the bad: it rained. most of the time it rained at convenient times, but not always. it rained extremely hard…there was thunder and hail and wind, which caused the roof to leak. and leak. and then the hot water went off 2x. and the apartment was a 4 story walk up. and there was construction outside, which started somewhere btw 7:30-8:30am. and the flatmate smoked and had a cat, neither of which is good for my ashtma. outside of the apartment, there were a ton of tourists and tourist groups. big, pushy tourist groups. and americans everywhere…don’t get me wrong, i love an american encounter here and there (another post on that), but in general, i don’t want them everywhere (museums, restaurants, gelateria, etc.) when i’m thousands of miles from home. it starts to feel like a tourist trap as opposed to an international adventure.

if i just ended my italy trip in florence, i probably would have said it was nice. but the problem is that i’m inevitably comparing florence with rome, which was out next stop (after 1 day in siena). and i really liked rome because it seemed more about the history as opposed to the art (or i guess art history in some cases). need to think this through a bit more.

and yest, pics coming soon…when i figure out my internet speed connection. .04mpbs in munich…really???

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